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Chhath Puja

Date: 4th November to 7th November 2016

Chhath Puja is an ancient Hindu festival and celebrated every year with full elation in Northern states of India. The grand festival pays reverence to Sun God for sustaining life and energy on earth. Celebrated in several parts of India in the month of October or November, Chhath Puja is deemed as the festival of compassion and forgiveness.

Chhath is also known as ‘Suryasasthi’ because it is observed after the six days of Deepawali. Rituals followed by devotees are stern in nature and are observed by people for a period of four days. The rituals connected with Chhath Puja include fasting, holy bathing, and abstaining from even having food and drinking water.

Chhath Puja Legends

Chhath Puja is immersed deeply into several folklores and these myths speak clearly about this festival. Rigveda describes some traditions that are akin to the customs of Chhath Puja. The great epic Mahabharata also showcases descriptions of Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas observing same rituals suggested by sage Dhaumya to get back the lost empire of Pandavas. A myth also mentions that Chhath Puja was started by Karna to please his father Sun God. As per Hindu legends, it is also believed that rishis used to perform this holy Puja to get energy from sun directly rather than other sources.

Chhath Puja Celebrations

The festival of Chhath Puja holds a special place and celebrated by Hindus with great level of jubilation and dedication. On this occasion, prayers are offered by devotees to the rising and setting sun to get a healthy, wealthy and happy life. It is also believed that the holy Puja also heal various diseases like leprosy and ensure prosperity and longevity of loved ones. Women are the main worshippers of this festivity, but some men also take part in the celebration.

Four Days of Chhath Puja Festival

Day 1- Naha Kha
Naha Kha is the first day of the Puja that literally means to take bath and eat food. On the first day, people go to a sanctified river and take holy dip in river water. Bathing is the first custom that is followed by devotees and this is known as ‘Snanam’. After this, people clean their homes and prepare offerings. Devotees who keep fast on this day are known as ‘Parvaitins’ and they are supposed to have food once in a day.

Day 2- Kharna
Parvaitins keep fast for all day long and as per Hindu solar calendar this day falls on Pancahami. Devotees who observe fast do not eat before the sundown. After sunrise, followers worship Mother Earth and distribute fruits, kheer, puris, and other offerings to dear ones. After this, Parvaitins keep strenuous fast for the next 36 hours without taking even a single drop of water.

Day 3- Chhath
Day 3 of Puja is divided into two parts, Sanjhiya Arghya and Kosi and a brief description of these two customs are mentioned below.

Sanjhiya Arghya- This day is spent preparing offerings like Thekua and Kasara (Prasad) at home. In the evening, Parvaitins alongwith acquaintances head off to a water body like river bank or pond and offer ‘Aragh’ to Sun God. At the time of offerings, folk songs are sung by women and this reflects the social structure, cultur, history and mythology of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Kosi- An elaborate and exotic Puja is performed during the third night. An awning is made with the help of five sugarcane sticks and lighted clay lamps are placed inside this canopy. The sugarcane sticks signifies the five great elements- water, earth, air, ether, and fire. This custom is performed in the family where a marriage or child birth takes place. Initially, the custom starts and ends with the worshipping of Sun God.

Day 4- Parna

Bihaniya Aragh are the offerings that are bestowed to Sun God in the morning. The Parvaitins along with family members visit the banks of the holy river; offer their prayers to Sun God, and the day ends with fast breaking by Pravitians. It’s a charming and enticing experience to watch the wonderful fusion of modern Indian culture and ancient traditions.